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Aircraft and Rail: The inside line on what to expect in 2024



By: Julia Fitzgerald, Transport Sector Lead


2023 was a year of innovation and collaboration, bringing together industry experts from across the globe to discuss how cabin interiors for both rail and air travel can evolve in 2024. 


Following attendance at three successful RedCabin summits in 2023, it was clear that the conversations are very much alive in how to continue improving the passenger experience. At events in Salt Lake City, Seattle and Vienna, key themes and areas for progression have come to the fore, with innovations including:


Manufacturing 


Airlines are increasingly focusing on cabin design, and there is a very real desire to make aircraft cabins feel more homely, more comfortable and more responsive to customer wants and needs, alongside a desire to improve the passenger experience by way of “low-risk” adaptations. 


With several ideas around low-risk changes that would make a big impact on travellers, with the upgrading of lavatories, bins/PSUs and galleys raised as areas where more flexibility is required. Suggestions for technological advancements include better connectivity and flight attendant panel software, with onboard lounges and bars also raised as a future possible addition to cabins.  


Accessibility


Improvements continue to be made to accessibility within the cabin in the interests of people with reduced mobility, or those with visual or auditory impairments. The specific needs and requirements of less able passengers will continue to be a key part of the innovation process.


Making cabins accessible for all travellers is an ongoing priority for the industry, with the need for innovation reflected in the Vienna summit’s survey results. 


With one in four people in the United States having some form of disability, the requirement to update cabins is clear. Dedicated accessible storage, more accessible lavatories and  greater use of display and audio technology to create effective audio and visual announcements were also highlighted as industry priorities. 


Sustainability


The industry has now fully embraced the importance of creating a more sustainable future. This topic appeared in numerous discussions, with leaders from the entire industry asking questions about what the next steps are for the industry, and how best to approach them.


Weight reduction of products is often the first solution for manufacturers. While this does inevitably increase sustainability – reducing fuel consumption for example – this does not consider the manufacturing process itself, nor the materials used. 


The industry is on the cusp of a new generation of rail innovation with sustainability a key consideration, alongside passenger comfort and control. 


What comes next?


However, with collaboration between industry players on the rise, so were conversations on the obstacles experts face when seeking to improve the passenger experience.


Complex regulations and lack of space (inc. seating layout/design) were recognised as areas to be addressed, with dedicated modules for work, socialising, and relaxation and lighting designed with the passenger in mind both selected as needing innovation in 2024 and beyond. 


Ultimately, discussions in innovation will always come back to the passenger experience. It comes down to a question of compromise and whether passengers will either increase their spend, or reduce their expectation in terms of cabin features in the name of enhanced sustainability and accessibility. This question remains an important one for the industry to focus on as the year progresses.


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